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Monday, February 8, 2016

Tennessee Touring: Welcome to Nashville

After driving halfway across the state, we pull into our hotel...the Hyatt Place Opryland...just across the street from the massive, Gaylord Opryland hotel.

Watch the Video!

We're feeling sick. I caught a cold in Tupelo and, despite my efforts, Letty and Tim caught it from me.

A little taste of the town is in order so we head downtown. My first surprise is parking.  The lots here do not advertise their rates on their signs. I find out why. A lot a block south of Broadway, after I pull in, park, unload Tim, and go to the kiosk to pay, turns out to be $25.

We head to the Johnny Cash museum around the corner. It's nice to see. A $12 AAA discounted admission for each of us gets us in.

We see a lot of his suits and dresses worn by his wife, June Carter Cash.

There are videos about his life, hand written lyrics, awards, and gold records.

His favorite guitars and paintings done by the man in black.

And ending with the mixing board used by Cash and Rick Rubin to record the American series of albums at the end of his life while a video of "Hurt" plays nearby.

I probably would have enjoyed it more had I not been sick but the place was crowded and cramped.

In fact, the whole city was crowded and cramped. Thousands had descended on Nashville because of the George Jones tribute concert that would be going on tonight at the Bridgestone Arena, up the street.

Walking down Broadway, it was chilly and crowded. All the people and neon made the city live up to it's nickname of "Nash Vegas" due to it's resemblance to Las Vegas.

I hate Las Vegas.

The sickness, crowds, cold weather, and the fast draining hole in my wallet were wearing on me.

We ducked into Ernest Tubb's record shop to get out of the cold and browse the selections.

I was beginning to think after four pretty wonderful days in Memphis that we might have made a mistake coming here for the bulk of our trip.

In the back of the store on a very small stage, an older gentleman on guitar with a younger woman singer started to play. I heard someone ask the store clerk, "is that Leon Rhodes?" The clerk assured him it was.

Rhodes is a certifiable country star. He was Ernest Tubb's lead guitar player in the band The Texas Troubadors. The woman was Anita Stapleton, a much in demand backup singer here.

We stuck around to hear them play a few songs.  In between songs, I snuck in with Tim to get the picture with the musicians you see above.

After Letty took the picture, I feel a tap on my shoulder. Maybe Mr. Rhodes could feel my blue and depressed demeanor. When I turned around, he simply smiled at me,and stuck out his hand for a handshake.

It was at that point that I felt everything would be ok.

Welcome to Nashville.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, February 7, 2016

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Scottsdale Cocktails

We're on location for another Cocktail Hour here at The World on Wheels. This time, we're coming to you from the Valley of the's beautiful and warm Scottsdale, Arizona.

Not quite a pub crawl, we filmed this over several days when we visited the Scottsdale and Phoenix areas.

Watch the Video!

We start off with some easy to get to sips, no driving required...

It's the cocktail lounge of our hotel, the Marriott McDowell Mountains Resort.  Beer and wine are on tap as we relax by the firepit.

Next, it's a set of tasters at Harrold's Corral, a cowboy steakhouse and bar in nearby Cave Creek.  

Although the place is down-to-earth and not fancy, they do serve some mighty good microbrews.

Then it's a trip on Phoenix's light rail system so we can try the powerful tropical cocktails at Hula in downtown Phoenix.

The mai tais are sweet and powerful but we find a few others to like too.

Lastly, it's the night before a big bowl game in Tempe.  Can you believe this oldster got carded at the bar?

It's at Dos Gringos where we try some average Cadillac margaritas and the waitress gets our order wrong not once, not twice, maybe even more than three times...but we just gave up at that point.

It's all in the video above, click on "Play" and let's get this party started!



Friday, February 5, 2016

Tennessee Touring: On the Elvis Trail, from End to The End.

The 600 pound gorilla in the Memphis, Tennessee tourist agenda is of course, The King.  We've been on the Elvis Trail, starting with his birth in Tupelo, Mississippi; through to his breakthrough with Sam Phillips at Sun Studio; and now to where he lived and ended it all.

Of course, we're talking about his home in south Memphis, Graceland.

Before we left, a friend of mine said he was in Memphis but passed on Graceland because of the cost. It is kind of breathtaking that, even with the AAA discount, it was $99 for the three of us but it really is a once in a lifetime thing, so we'll bite the bullet and take it in.

Note: you can also get a slightly less ($3 less) tour that does not include some of the smaller side Elvis' airplanes, which are not wheelchair accessible anyway...or pay $72 for the "VIP" experience, in which you also get to see the automobile museum and get a "keepsake" backstage pass.

We decided to "enhance" our experience even more by moving our last night to the Heartbreak Hotel, a themed lodging across the street adjacent to the visitor's center that is also owned by the same company.

A king suite here was just a few dollars more than the Springhill Suites we were staying at the last few nights but the hotel was a bit run down and looked as it had not been renovated since Elvis' death. The lounge (The Jungle Room) was a bit pathetic and the food choices very uninspiring. 

On the plus side, they show Elvis movies 24/7 on the TV's here...

After check-in, we head over to the visitor's center, cash in the reservation we bought online, and head outside.  We're across the street from the house so visitors board shuttle buses (which have wheelchair lifts and tie-downs) for the short trip across the street, though the famous music note gates, and up to the front door.

A quick spiel about the history of the house and then you're turned loose inside with your headphones and audio tour. This is always a bit of a pain in the butt for me because Tim can never quite punch in the right code for the proper part of the tour so I'm fixing his errors, trying to get my audio back to match his, and then continue with the tour.

We get by.

You start in the foyer (which is directly under the spot where Elvis died upstairs but they don't tell you that on the tour) and view the living room with its fifteen foot long couch on the right.

Then, it's on to his parents bedroom down the hall, past the staircase (upstairs is strictly off limits), and into the dining room.

A large, dated kitchen is after that. Now, Tim gets to wait upstairs while Letty and I take turns to go down in the basement to see the rec room and bar. Tim watches a video of the same thing in the car port.

Next is the famous Jungle Room with a waterfall, animal skins and theme. It's basically a large family room.

Outside, you go past Lisa Marie's swingset and into the offices of Elvis Enterprises where his dad, Vernon, used to take care of the business side of things.

On the end of this building is an old smokehouse that was converted into a shooting range.

Past the horse pasture is the trophy room where hundreds of gold and platinum records hang on the wall.

More exhibits about Elvis in the Army and his short marriage to Priscilla. 

The last day of his life, he played raquetball in his own personal court where it has now been converted to a large display room showing more gold and platinum records plus a selection of the outfits he wore onstage. 

Outside, by the pool is the final stop on the tour which is also Elvis' final stop...the memorial garden.

Here, he rests eternally next to the graves of his mom, his dad, and his grandmother.

Back on the shuttle, Letty comments that it was smaller than expected. Indeed, the house would just barely qualify as a mansion in some places but it was a different time with different expectations.

It's back to the hotel after touring the planes and the gift shops before heading out for dinner.

Dinner time and the pickin's are slim around Graceland. Instead, a better bet is to head back downtown for some Memphis barbecue. We're heading to Charles Vergo's Rendezvous. Walking by the Peabody Hotel, one of the city's homeless citizens asks where we're from and if we've had dinner yet.

We tell him we're going to the Rendezvous and he directs us to an alley half a block away.  Indeed, this lonely alley is the entrance.

Watch the Video!

Our Dinner at The Rendezvous

The restaurant is mostly downstairs with another room upstairs. Nothing is at the level of the entrance. Fortunately, the hostess sends Bob the busboy to escort us to a nearby elevator where we make the journey through the bowels of the restaurant to our table.

While trying to decide between all the pork ribs, chicken, sausage and such, our server tells us they are having a special.

"You're here during Memphis Dine week. We have a special, two brisket dinners with beer for $20.13."

Sounds good. We order that plus a plate of pork ribs.  The food is indeed special, especially the brisket. It's moist...which is the problem I have with most versions, they're too dry...and have a great smoky flavor. 

I tell Bob I love them and he says he thinks the pork ribs are even better. They are very good, tender, and flavorful but I still have to give the edge to the brisket.

One more night in the disappointing Heartbreak Hotel and our too short time in Memphis is over. In the morning, we'll be heading east on Interstate 40 towards "Music City," Nashville.

We'll see you there.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

CEREBRAL PALSY STORIES: Going On The Record With My Disability

As many of you who follow this blog may or may not know I was born with a disability known as Cerebral Palsy.  As the mission statement of this blog points out I have had Cerebral Palsy from the the time I was born 29 years ago.  

The effects of Cerebral Palsy are wide-ranging for those who have it.  Some Cerebral Palsy individuals require the use of a wheelchair like myself. Others can walk with the assistance of a walker or crutches. There are also others who require the use of assisted speaking devices to communicate with family and friends.

I can't speak for others individuals who live a normal life, but what I can tell you is that I try to make the most out of my life each and every day regardless of the challenges that come from living with Cerebral Palsy.

I don't want to bore you with a laundry list of personal challenges I've faced over the the years because it would take a long time and I don't want to write a novel.  Not to mention that they are personal.  Instead I'll share some stories from time to time under this new series of posts entitled Cerebral Palsy Stories.  I'll do my best to come up with some good and interesting ones.  Hopefully these stories can shed some light on what it's like to live life with your own set of wheels.

Tim Musick
Copyright 2016
All Rights Reserved

Monday, February 1, 2016

Tennessee Touring: Memphis - Martin and Elvis

Previously on our Tennesse tour...Part 1 and Part 2

It's another trolley ride south on Main Street in Memphis Tennessee. After a run at the breakfast bar at the Springhill Suites, we're off to see the National Civil Rights Museum.

Watch the Video!

Built around the Lorraine Motel, a Black-friendly lodging back in the Jim Crow days, the complex includes the motel where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 while standing in front of his room, and the building across the street where James Earl Ray stuck his rifle through the bathroom window to get a clear shot.

It's another sad, depressing...but important...stop travelers need to make. After years of oppression, bigotry, and prejudice, Dr. King's efforts at equality led to some remarkable remaking of southern and American society. His death here in Memphis only made the movement stronger.

Entering through a underground tunnel, you are ushered into a theater for a 10 minute introduction to Dr. King and his legacy that runs on a loop. Once you're done with that, you head upstairs for exhibits and a timeline of the events of that April 4th. At the end of the timeline, you find yourself standing at a reproduction of Ray's bedroom and bathroom.

Only it isn't a reproduction. 

Once you read the signs and get your bearings, you realize that tunnel led you into the old boarding house and you are looking at the actual bedroom and bathroom, sealed in glass, as they were left that day.

After some more exhibits about the investigation, the trial, and other assassinations, you wander back outside and visit the motel itself where you can walk up to room 306, look in, and stand in the spot where Dr. King fell, marked by a wreath.

It's sad but whenever we visit somber monuments like this, we have to focus on the good things that resulted from it.

Another trolley takes us to a happier historic site, the birthplace of rock 'n roll.

It's on the corner of Union and Myrtle, on the western edge of downtown Memphis. This small, brick building holds Sam Phillips' Memphis Recording Service, also the home of his record label, Sun Studios.

A DJ in the early fifties, Phillips would hire himself out to record things...birthday parties, weddings, funerals...much like videographers do today.  You could also come to his studio and rent time or even cut a quick demo record.

Many Black groups in the day would come in because they new Phillips loved the sound of African American blues. Ike Turner and Jackie Brenston came up from Mississippi to record. One of their amps fell off the car, damaging it a bit, on the way. Recording with the amp gave the guitar a slightly fuzzy sound and guitar distortion was discovered that day.

The song they recorded, "Rocket 88," is considered the first rock 'n roll song.

It wouldn't be long before a local teenage truck driver named Elvis Presley would come in to record and hang around which, eventually, led Sam Phillips to invite him in. Not moved by Presley's slow, melodic gospels songs, a frustrated Phillips called for a break during which Elvis, playing around with his band mates, knocked out a killer version of "That's Alright," which Sam came back in to immediately put to vinyl. 

The rest, as they say, is history.

Today, the studio is still in business. Mostly for tourists during the day and for musicians at night.  The tour itself is half accessible. The first half goes upstairs. Wheelchair users will have to wait in the lounge for that part but are not charged admission.

Upstairs, you get to see that broken guitar amp that Ike Turner used, numerous Elvis memorabilia, and some ancient recording gear.

Downstairs, the second half of the tour is exclusively a one-room shot, but what a room it is. In the studio, outtakes are played from 50's recording sessions, the tour guide points out where Elvis stood when he was recording, the "dollar in the guitar string" trick Johnny Cash used to get his unique sound, how the Million Dollar Quartet came to be, and much more.

A pickup band made up of tourists are put together to re-enact Elvis recording "That's Alright"...Tim got to be the King for that one (see it in the video, above).

At the end, the microphone used by Elvis is brought out and everybody gets their chance to pose with it.

You do really feel the history here, both at Sun Studios and the Lorraine Motel. One is a celebration of uninhibitedness, while the other is more somber but it led to some great and hopeful changes to our nation.

It's been a long day and we've been on our feet for all of it. To get a rest and relax a bit, we head to the Peabody Hotel to sit, have a cup of coffee in the lobby, and check out a real duck dynasty.

In the 1930's, the hotel's manager...after a little imbibing...thought it'd be funny to leave some live ducks in the lobby fountain.  The next morning, probably with a bit of a headache, he thought better of it and went to the lobby to retrieve the ducks.  A crowd had formed and he knew he had a hit on his hands.

A bellman who used to be a circus trainer volunteered to train the birds and, ever since, they have lived on the roof of the hotel. Each morning, they take a private elevator and are marched to the fountain.  At 5:00pm, the duckmaster...with an honored hotel guest...retrieves the fowl, marches them back to the elevator to the tunes of a Souza march, and back to the roof.

This is known as the Peabody March of the Ducks and we're here just in time for it.

If you get a table in the lobby like we did, the staff make sure to keep your view clear. Other, less fortunate visitors have to squeeze in by the elevator behind velvet ropes. Children are allowed to sit in front on the floor. People in wheelchairs, like Tim, are ushered to their own privileged front row viewing area.

It doesn't last long but it's still a hoot to see.

As the ducks go, so do we. Next time, we'll have some great barbecue and continue our journey along the Elvis Trail.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Cocktail Hour: Beale Street Pub Crawl

It's time The World on Wheels hit the bluesiest street on earth, Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee.

Three blocks of wall-to-wall bars and nightclubs with only the occasional souvenir store to break it up.

Watch the Video!

On this crawl, we hit three of them, starting with the Beale Street Taproom. Upon entering, it becomes immediately obvious that smoking is still allowed in Tennessee bars. As we're just in the beginning stages of a cold, the smoky air grabs at our throats and makes breathing a bit labored.

The taproom boasts 60 taps on the wall and we take advantage of them to try a Schafly Kolsch. Schafly is a St. Louis brewery working in the shadow of the giant Anheiser Busch there.  They are making some inroads, though, as the owner told me in an e-mail that they're available on tap in Busch Stadium there.

It tastes like a good light beer but is still better than the King of Beers that in competes against.

The Beale Street Taproom is also remembered as the place that Letty started her love affair with Fireball Whiskey, a Canadian cinnamon flavored version.

Next was Alfred's on Beale where a nice, rock due serenaded us as we tried the Ghost River Ale, which turned out to have a bit of a sour taste that Letty really liked.  We also tried the Yazoo Dos Beeros which had a hint of sweetness. Yes, that's right, sweet 'n sour at Alfreds.

Yuengling is also on tap all over Memphis so we tried America's oldest beer here too. Pretty good.

Last was Rum Boogie where Darren Jay and the Delta Souls pumped out some great blues while we tried Sam Adams...a decent lager we've had many times before...and Batch 19, a pre-prohibition style lager made by Coors that is actually pretty darn decent, better than the Sam Adams that we're drinking against it.

Watch the video for the complete story and come along to one of the most musical places you'll ever see.